Migration Alert: Michigan Waterfowlers Taking Advantage of Increasing Duck Numbers

Nov. 6, 2017 – Mississippi Flyway – Michigan

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Photo © Michael Furtman

By Jay Anglin, WF360 Great Lakes Migration Editor

The daisy chain of weather systems that passed through the Great Lakes region over the past two weeks has boosted waterfowl numbers throughout Michigan. Hunters across the Upper and Lower Peninsulas are reporting large movements of waterfowl, with substantial increases in numbers of mallards, black ducks, and a variety of diving duck species.

Dylan Graves, a volunteer with the Lake Superior State University DU chapter, has been hunting the massive St. Mary’s River system along the Canadian border. Graves reports that conditions have been perfect for waterfowling, with north-northwest winds and dropping temperatures.

“Snow has periodically fallen throughout the area, and it looks like some freezing temperatures will hit the area this week,” Graves says. “The diver migration is in full swing, and good numbers of long-tailed ducks, goldeneyes, and buffleheads have been spotted throughout the St. Mary’s watershed. Layout hunters have been having great success on divers recently, and fields with standing water have been good for mallards and other puddle ducks. Waterfowl hunting in the eastern U.P. is red hot right now.”    

More than 200 miles to the south, in the east-central part of the state, hunters are enjoying success at Shiawassee River State Game Area near St. Charles. “As of our last report, visiting hunters have harvested 3,200 ducks and 312 geese on 2,256 trips,” reports Vic Weigold, a wildlife technician with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR).

Throughout the state, reports indicate lesser scaup are concentrated in good numbers on traditional migration stops, including Saginaw Bay and Lake St. Clair as well as on large inland lakes. 

John Darling, a wildlife technician at the St. Clair Flats Wildlife Area, reports, “Duck numbers on the refuge are up to around 20,000 birds, including many more mallards than the previous week. The hunting remains pretty darn good, with 1,442 ducks taken this week for an average daily harvest of 1.3 ducks per hunter. Our totals for the year are up to 3,659 ducks in 2,487 hunter trips, for an average of 1.47 birds per hunter.”

DU volunteer Robert Schaumann says hunting has also been good in western Michigan. “I’ve only been out three times since the season opened, but I’ve harvested 18 ducks. It doesn’t get any better than that,” Schaumann says.

Reports from southern-tier counties indicate excellent hunting overall. Heavy rain from weekend storms has flooded many low-lying areas in harvested grainfields. As of Sunday afternoon, waterfowl were already keying on some of these temporarily flooded fields.

“Duck hunting has been slow but steady,” explains Mike Richardson, a wildlife technician at the MDNR’s Fennville Farm Unit in southwest Michigan. “We should start seeing new ducks based on the forecast for this coming week. We have had a good variety of birds, including pintails, wigeon, gadwalls, mallards and black ducks. Wood ducks have definitely thinned out, but Canada geese are abundant.

 “The Allegan GMU goose season starts Nov. 11, with a youth only hunt on the opener. I expect that will be a very good hunt as the latest survey indicated roughly 4,200 Canadas. We even have around 200 snows and some greater white-fronted geese. It’s unusual to see that many snow geese in this area.”

Michigan waterfowlers should get their cold-weather gear ready and possibly make arrangements to take a few days off. With frigid temperatures to the north, much of Michigan’s valuable waterfowl habitat is poised to host peak numbers of ducks and geese over the next couple of weeks.

Jay Anglin is an avid hunter, fisherman, and guide from LaPorte, Indiana. A veteran writer, Anglin, holds a biology degree from Northern Michigan University. He will be providing migration updates from the Great Lakes Region throughout the 2017-2018 waterfowl season.